Week 1 in One Word: Green

October 15, 2022

Veteran Chris Wideman offers support to rookie defenceman Arber Xhekaj following a Leafs penalty shot in Game 1

This week the Montreal Canadiens kicked off their season with three games. On Wednesday night they greeted the Toronto Maple Leafs for their home opener, and a late goal from Josh Anderson sealed a 4-3 win. Jake Allen was sensational in Detroit on Friday, but they still suffered a 3-0 loss. From there the Habs were greeted by a Washington Capitals team with a cranky coach demanding a win, and he got one. The Habs lost 3-1.

If Week 1 needed a theme song, I’d pick Kermit the Frog’s rendition of “It’s not that easy bein’ green.”

The roster that was iced for Game 1 is the greenest defence group we have seen in Montreal in a while.

According to NHL Insider Chris Johnston, Leafs defenceman Mark Giordano, with 1024 games played, had more NHL experience than the entire group of defencemen the Habs would ice on opening night. That Habs D-group was greener than an Irish pub on St. Paddy’s Day.

They held their own. Kaiden Guhle, in his first NHL game played 22:34. Yes, he made errors, but he didn’t look out of place. Arber Xhekaj played about 10 minutes less and struggled a little more, including getting caught out of position with the result being a penalty shot, but he also had some bright spots.

In a slightly lighter shade of green, Jordan Harris has taken his game up a notch since the 10 games he played in Montreal last year. He was strong in just under 20 minutes. The AHL veteran, Johnathan Kovacevic came to the Habs with four games of NHL experience, and played his first game having barely laid eyes on a practice rink in Montreal. He held his own in a little over 19 minutes of ice.

The two vets on the ice were green with envy over how the kids adjusted.

One MRI later, and there is no green light for Michael Matheson.

Eight weeks. 20 games or more before Matheson returns from an abdominal muscle strain, and there is still no timeline on Joel Edmundson. If Edmundson is close, they might hang on. Call me paranoid, but I’ve seen the original 44 movie and if the sequel is similar, they have to consider adding.

The kids are holding their own. Guhle and Harris continued to shine in Games 2 and 3, and the new Kovy is performing as well as you’d expect a waiver wire pick up to perform. Xhekaj got his first NHL assist in Washington, one he earned with some good work holding the line in the offensive zone. But can they sustain it for the long haul?

When Guhle had to leave Game 2 for several minutes and, for a while, a shoulder injury was suspected, the Habs coaching staff were looking a little green around the gills. Is it sensible to need your rookie D-man that much?

Green is also the colour of money – and Jake Allen was money for the Habs on Friday night.

A good save percentage can kill a bad team’s chances at a high draft pick, and the Habs need that high pick very much. Allen was at .974 in Game 2, which seems almost unbelievable, and they still lost. I suspect the high pick is safe.

The test for Martin St. Louis was whether he would be prepared to use Samuel Montembeault enough when Allen is playing lights out. Jake the Snake is not getting any younger, and they’ve committed two more years to him beyond this. They can’t overtax him.

Other coaches have fallen to the temptation to go for the wins with the guy who gives you the best chance – I’ve often wondered if Carey Price’s trajectory would have been different if they hadn’t rode him like a rented mule.

Marty passed the test, and Monty was not the reason they lost to the Capitals.

It can be hard to see the forest for the trees when they’re all… green.

Three games in and we’re already fussing. Why is Monahan playing centre instead of Dach? Is the right guy sitting for Drouin? Where should Slafkovsky play? What’s with the off-wing obsession Marty?

All just random trees and we need to look at the forest.

This is a very young team, and some very important players are still very inexperienced. They still need to grow. The good news is this version of the Montreal Canadiens have a few green thumbs in charge.

“It’s not that easy bein’ green.” ~ Kermit the Frog

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

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